nervous habit

nervous habit

Words and illustration by Weiqi Chuah.

Content note for anxiety.

the edges of my nails are rounded

like the contours of a rocky cliff,

faces of crooked smiles, rugged and rough

never a perfect crescent.

I groomed them every day, set them

between my teeth

and chiseled,

wearing away ragged tips.

smoother, rounder, not too sharp

my teeth like tectonic plates grinding

at faults, rupturing

skin, sculpting.

but corners stayed

chipped, grew

more jagged edges, sharpened themselves

against the ridges to form

rocky formations.

I tried to make them perfect,

put my nails between soft bristles

dripping red, pink. Glittering,


I tried not to bite.

but I did.

my teeth bit off every lacquer layer,

every flake of glitter,

swallowed the colours whole and left them

the way I've always known -

jagged edges, chipped corners, familiar faces

smiling crookedly back at me.

nervous habit.jpg

Poet’s Note: Nail-biting has always been the one bad habit that has followed me through life. My mother used to nag at me for it, my friends would scowl at my disgusting fingers, my aunt once refused to put nail polish on me for fear that I would bite it off – I did, and still do. I later connected the dots and figured out that the nail-biting was merely a manifestation of my anxiety. The poem and accompanying illustration is about my experience with this – how I get taken over by the urge to fix and groom my nails by biting and biting, only for it to become worse. The imagery of mountains signifies both the jagged, rugged edges of my nails, yet I hope to also evoke some kind of strength and empowerment to overcome habits like these.